MARLBOROUGH, Mass. -- Massachusetts hockey enthusiasts watching the 14-and-Under championship game on Sunday morning at the 2014 Toyota-USA Hockey Tier I Girls National Championships must have felt a bit of déjà vu.
For the second time in three seasons the two local teams, Assabet Valley and the East Coast Wizards, met in the title game at the New England Sports Center. Two years ago Assabet’s 14U squad defeated the Wizards 3-2 in overtime at the same rink.
“It was back to a regular league game,” Assabet coach Eric Gray said of the fact that the home-ice edge both teams had enjoyed throughout the tournament was cancelled out in the championship game.
After Assabet took a 2-0 lead with 4:29 to play in the game, the Wizards got a goal back with 57 seconds left shortly after pulling their goalie.
But after the Wizards pulled their goalie again they were caught offside rushing the puck down the far side boards. Assabet won the ensuing faceoff and cleared the puck out of the zone to clinch the 2-1 victory.
“It was a good team effort all the way around,” Gray said. “We’ve had a great season. The kids are a great group of kids. We had no lumps and bumps. They played really well together. They played selflessly. They shared the puck nicely.”
Michaela O’Conner’s power play goal at 11:31 of the third period to go up 2-0 ended up being the game-winner. Lindsey Dumont and Madison Maher assisted on the goal.
“It was just a shot from the point that bounced off the boards and I was able to put it in the five hole,” O’Conner said before noting that she expected the Wizards to come back, but she wasn’t nervous after they scored.
“They are definitely a great team, and we are lucky to play well against them. Honestly, for me, I felt like we could pull it out. We tried our best and we were skating hard.”
The goal was like déjà vu for O’Connor, who said she had a reoccurring dream this season that she scored the game winner in the national championship game.
“I guess everybody has that dream to score in the national championship,” she said. “I didn’t know it would actually come true, though. It was a great opportunity and great thing that happened to me.”
Assabet Valley got off to a fast start. With 10:16 to go in the opening period, Charlote Welch scored off an assist from Julia Nearis.
The Wizards’ lone goal came off the stick of Ashlie Jones and was assisted by Gillis Frechette and Corinne McCool.
“It’s all about being able to get out of the zone quickly and going from there,” O’Conner said about closing out the game.
“Next season will be a different season, but I’ll be with a lot of my friends and a lot of my teammates,” O’Connor, 14, said. “We’ve definitely grown over the season so that’s great.”
Welch said the win would give Assabet bragging rights over the Wizards going into the 16U division.
“It was kind of exciting that two Massachusetts teams made the finals out of the [entire] U.S., so that was pretty good for us,” she said. “So we were happy to play them.
“Yeah it will definitely [give us bragging rights]. We’ll probably keep this in our memory forever and definitely hold on to these memories and all the fun we had.”
For the Wizards, the loss was the third straight in the national championship game.
“They played well, we played well, and they managed to score two and we got one, and that’s what it comes down to,” said coach Eric Fusco, a former Hobey Baker Award winner at Harvard University. “We did a lot of good things this week here at the tournament, and they played really well, and I was proud of the way they played.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.